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Thomas Dekker

(c. 1572—1632) playwright and pamphleteer

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was born and mainly lived in London. He suffered from poverty and was several times imprisoned for debt. He was engaged by Henslowe about 1595 to write plays (over 40 of which are now lost) in collaboration with Drayton, Jonson, J. Webster, and many others.

He published The Shoemaker's Holiday and Old Fortunatus, comedies, in 1600. Having been ridiculed, jointly with J. Marston, by Jonson in The Poetaster, he retorted in Satiromastix (presumably in collaboration with Marston), a play produced in 1601. His other principal plays are The Honest Whore, written 1604–5 (Part I in collaboration with Middleton, 1604; Part II, 1630); Patient Grissil (1603), in collaboration with Chettle and Haughton; The Witch of Edmonton, written in collaboration with Ford and Rowley in 1621, first published 1658. He also collaborated with Webster in Westward Hoe (1607), written in 1604; with Middleton in The Roaring Girle (1611), written 1604–10; and with Massinger in The Virgin Martyr (1622), written in 1620. Dekker also wrote pageants, tracts, and pamphlets. His pamphlet The Wonderfull Yeare (1603), a poignant description of London during the plague of that year, was used by Defoe for his Journal of the Plague Year. Newes from Hell (1606) is an imitation of Nashe; The Guls Hornebooke (1609) is a satirical book of manners.

Dekker's work is noted for its realistic and vivid portrayal of daily London life, both domestic and commercial, for its sympathy with the poor and oppressed, including animals tortured for man's amusement, and for its prevailing cheerfulness.

Subjects: Literature

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Works by Thomas Dekker